Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

If the question is “Why on earth would anyone stand around and pit a pound and a half of cherries”, then the answer is this cake.  I don’t really care how many cherries I would have to pit, I would do it happily, willingly, and with great anticipation if, in the end, it meant I could eat this.  Oh, is this cake ever good.  And I do mean good.  So good that someone (not me, I swear)) may or may not have eaten 4 pieces the day I made it.  I’ll admit to eating 2 pieces and wanting more very badly, but using unusual restraint because I also very badly wanted some for breakfast the next morning.

You will be glad to hear that this cake is quite easy to make, and once you have your cherries pitted (which really isn’t hard if you have a pitter), it all goes together very easily.  It’s just a matter of melting some butter, brown sugar and a little balsamic vinegar in a skillet and tossing in your cherries until they’re

 all coated with that lovely syrup, making your batter which is spread over the top of the cherries and then tossing the whole thing in the oven.  Yes, it bakes

 

right in the skillet.  Lovely, no?

What then emerges from said oven is nothing short of ambrosial.  The cornmeal in the cake gives it an amazing texture that is hard to describe, but it’s just all

 

so heavenly.   I’ve made this cake the past 2 summers and have learned to wait until at least mid-July when the cherries are at their peak.  You mostly want those dark, ripe ones, but a bright red one here and there is fine.

If I were in charge of such things, I would extend the cherry season at least another month, maybe another 6 months.  It seems that no sooner am I re-kindling my cherry love affair, but they are gone. Vanished.  And I am left to wander the produce aisles, fondly remembering where they used to wait for me, knowing I would buy more than I needed, unable to resist their juicy purple charms.

Don’t let this happen to you.  Go now.  Buy cherries.  Make this cake.  It will soon be too late.

Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Printable Recipe

Recipe courtesy of Epicurious

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4-5 cups whole pitted fresh Bing cherries or other dark sweet cherries (about 21 ounces whole unpitted cherries)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground medium grind)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F.

Combine 1/4 cup butter with brown sugar and vinegar in 10- to 11-inch ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides. Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high; add cherries and bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter in large bowl. Add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla.

Add flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry. Using rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten slightly. Fold in remaining whites in 3 additions (batter will be thick). Spoon batter over cherries in skillet, then spread evenly with offset spatula to cover cherries.

Bake cake until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in skillet on rack 5 minutes. Run spatula around edges of cake to loosen. Place large serving platter upside down atop skillet. Using pot holders or oven mitts, firmly hold platter and skillet together and invert. Leave skillet atop cake 5 minutes. Remove skillet. If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have become dislodged. Let cake cool at least 45 minutes. Cut cake into wedges and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.